September 9, 2007
I've been corresponding with Father Rick Andrews at Saint George's Greek Orthodox Church. In response to a question regarding the Orthodox saying "God became man so that men could become [like] gods," Fr. Andrews explained that "what God is by nature, we [human beings] are called to become by grace." This is an elegant summary of what we should do once we have received Christ. It does not imply that people become little gods or demigods, but that we become imitators of Christ.
Fr. Andrews has also recommended that I read the Early Church Fathers. I found them over at CCEL.org. You can download all of the writings of the Early Fathers. CCEL does ask that you register, and you'll be prompted to make a contribution. But the contribution is optional. I will probably make one at some time, but not right now.
I've not gotten far enough yet to have any general comments except one. In evangelicalism we are taught sola scriptura. That is, all we need is the Bible. Furthermore, we are taught that individual believers can interpret the Bible for themselves, and do not need the help of "the Church" so to speak. For many years that always seemed to make sense to me. After all, believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who will make all things clear to us (John 14:26). So I thought that my knowledge of King James English plus the Holy Spirit's help would be sufficient. But as I am beginning to see the complexities of the "Ethical Monotheism" of the Old Testament, some of the seemingly paradoxical sayings of the Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament, and the fact that our God does not change, I decided I wanted to go back and start over again in my exploration of Christianity. We have to go back to the letters of Paul in the New Testament and the writings of the Early Church Fathers to get this historical context. Once we have this context, then it becomes possible to understand what the Bible means. It seems, though, according to the Orthodox view, at least, that God the Holy Spirit gave us the history of the Early Church to show us what true Christianity is supposed to be.
I asked Fr. Rick this question: "In light of Christ's promise of John 14:26, how exactly does Orthodoxy view the individual believer's interpretation of the Bible?" His answer:
Regarding biblical interpretation, a life within the Church implies using all Her resources to guide us in understanding the teachings of the Law, Prophets, Christ, Apostles, the Fathers and Saints. It all begins in the center of the Church's life, Her worship, where we bring ourself into His house, to be with His people, to receive Him both in Word and in Eucharist. This is not a magical transformation but a process of growth over time. Certainly, the Holy Spirit blows where it wills to help anyone who truly seeks communion with God. It is my belief that the seeking will eventually lead them to Christ and ultimately to the Orthodox Church as the truest/fullest expression of His Body.I think his response leaves enough room open for individual interpretation ("the Holy Spirit blows where it wills") but it also conveys that the Church has much to offer and that we should pay attention to what the Church has to say.
Journey to Orthodoxy
God Became Man and other thoughts
Thoughts on Mary
Visiting the Church
Returning to the Church
The Communion Question
Losing the Sense of the Sacred
Conversation with Fr. Tom
Icons and Worship
Can we truly know?
Faith and Works